San Juan Islands - June 2000

           Day One - 6/24

       The salt air is cool and soft, the gentle but haunting swell of the ferry whistle calling across the water.  It's been a year since I have last heard this sound.  It has a way of singsonging in my ears long after I've left the Sound.  I hear it in the whistling of tap water coming through the pipes, in a distant truck horn, and the squeal of tires against wet pavement.  Like a seashell, my memories cradle that sound and all I have to do is listen for it.  A mist is rising on the water, broken only by the flutter of black and white swallows.  Seagulls chatter nearby and the sea air is thick.  The world slips away until it's just me and the water and the ferry.  I stand on the deck, the wind cold on my face and breathe in the view.  I've stood here so many times, yet the moment I park my car in lane 4, I feel like it's the first time I've traveled these waters.  Every time I come here, I try to hold onto every detail, every sensation.
    At last, night falls gently on the waters and sleepy Friday Harbor's lights appear in the twilight.  I feel the magic of this place pulsate around me.  Tomorrow, I will see whales.




    Day Two - 6/25

    The whale watch excursion outfit tells everyone that the whales are too far out and that if anyone wants to reschedule, they will allow it.  I just smile at them.  We'll see orcas.

    We climb into the boat and shortly, we're under way.  The Sound is choppy today and the boat ebbs and flows with the chop.  I slip away from the group, Mavica in hand, and I lean over the rail.  With my face to the wind and so no one else can hear me, I sing.  See, orcas love music -- especially flutes -- so I sing to them.  Not ten minutes later, K-Pod is sighted.

    The entire pod (seventeen whales) along with a new calf, fish and play north of the island.  I see my first full breach along with cartwheels and tail lobs.  All seventeen whales are in the vicinity and watching them is sheer joy.  I am overwhelmed.  Finally, the pod turns west and slips away from the boat.  Reluctantly, the boat turns slowly back toward Friday Harbor.  On the return trip, I search through my digital shots, still beaming over the breach I caught on disk.


    Mom and I end the day at the lighthouse, watching the sun set over Canada.  The sky is ablaze with oranges and reds and just as night is settling warm over the lighthouse, a harbor seal appears near the rocks where we sit.  Shortly, the lone seal slips into the darkness.  Only when it is quiet and the lightning bugs have begun to glimmer do we rise from the rocks and start toward the trail leading back to the car.  Mom points to a picnic table, saying there is a cat underneath it.
    Already missing my cats, I needed a cat fix, so I move toward the picnic table, but then I notice that it isn't a cat.  It's a small dog.  The dog trots toward me.  We stare at each other for several minutes until I realize that I am staring at a fox!  It's a little red fox and I am mesmerized.  Finally, the little guy ambles off after circling us once.  I grin all the way back to the car.  Seventeen orcas, two bald eagles, a seal, and a fox.  Not a bad day.  :)


       Day Four - 6/27

         Seeing the orcas once is never enough, so my mom and I go out again, this time on a small, six-person boat.  We go out in the morning and after assisting a whale research vessel, we find part of L-Pod south, at the tip of Lopez island.  L-Pod also has a baby orca.  Several members of the pod head into Eagle Cove to fish and frolic.  We saw half a dozen breaches and some more cartwheels!  They were so beautiful and so playful.  The salmon runs must be burgeoning this year.  After a few hours of having the orcas all to ourselves, the boat turns back toward Snug Harbor.

    Later, we return to the lighthouse again and watch a dramatically different sunset.  The colors are soft aquas and fuchsias, not at all like the fiery sunset from two days ago.  For a long time, I sit on the rocks, watching a freighter slip slowly along the horizon, the snowy Olympic mountains turning rich purples and blues.  Everyone else has left now until there is only gentle hush of the waves against the rocks and that distant murmur of the ferry whistle.  The lighthouse beacon dances along the shore to the rhythm of the Sound as the waters gleam with the remnants of daylight.
    Twilight at the lighthouse is one of my favorite moments.  Already, I think about going on another whale watch excursion tomorrow as I rise and walk reluctantly away from the shore and the lighthouse.



    Orcas Breaching!!!

    Yes, I finally got around to posting these.
    And yes, I sound like a total geek on these mpegs, so....amateur alert!
    You'd think I'd never seen an orca breach or something!